Society of Professional Journalists Net Worked Blog: Data, Data Everywhere

My eyes and thumbs comb through medium after medium, prowling the Internet for the next sensational story, the latest updates from my friends, and the most cutting-edge scientific research.

TwitterTumblrFacebookPinterestInstagramSnapchatGoogle … Repeat.

It’s hard to imagine living in such an age where we don’t know about the forthcoming announcement of (yet another) Republican presidential nominee, or the release of Apple’s latest music makeover.  Even the things we don’t really want to know, we know –– just who was Hillary Clinton emailing during her Secretary of State term?  What Harry Potter house were all 486 of your friends on Facebook sorted into, according to BuzzFeed’s evaluation of your taste in Getty Images?

In an information age as overwhelming as our own, the amount of data at our fingertips can seem just as mind-numbing.  What do we do with all of this information, present-day journalists ask themselves?  How can we tell these stories, with so much info on, often, so little a scope?

‘Data journalism’ seems to be the term savvy storytellers are throwing around these days to combat our fear of information overload.  Their jobs are to mine the spreadsheets of the latest census in search of interesting data sets, or track down the frequency of drivers running a red light in Los Angeles, California –– and make it into something an audience wants to look at.

Digesting data, and how to showcase that data for consumers, is a booming business right now.  Even the New York Times published a letter on their Upshot blog this week, called “Death to ‘Data Journalism.’”

Why death to data journalism, you ask?

Because ‘data journalism’ is, really, a false reality.  A new-fangled term coined for another face of modern storytelling.

Just because journalists are administering newly compiled and accessible data to a public hungry for news doesn’t mean the objective changes.  The game is still the same: create engaging, intellectually stimulating content for readers and viewers everywhere.

The interviewees in this short video on data journalism have it right: data journalism will soon (and hopefully) become just plain, old journalism again, once readers have gotten accustomed to writers with this much access to information.

We will soon come to expect that our country’s journalists have the tenacity to sort through piles of records requests, along with getting that saucy quote from the mayor and the damning image of his ex-wife.  It’s all part of the package, and that makes the stakes that much higher.

It’s an exciting new age of journalism.  Higher expectations, but a higher reward from the public you serve.

So don’t be confused by terms like ‘data journalism,’ ‘print journalism,’ even ‘photojournalism.’  Because in the end, it’s all part of the story.

This blog also appears on SPJ Net Worked

*The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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